The idea of a homeless center was born eight years ago alongside an ambitious plan to end homelessness in Gainesville.
It was called the Gainesville Region/Alachua County Empowerment for the homeless — shortened to GRACE — and it outlined a plan among the city and other local organizations to end homelessness in Gainesville within the next 10 years.
One of the program’s most specific goals was to have a single center where homeless men and women could seek help. They could go to the center for a meal, job training, medical exams and other services meant to attack homelessness at its roots.
That was in 2005.
Nearly nine years later, the center is in its final stages. Since about 2007, when the city and county officially agreed to create the center, finding a location was a slow-burning problem. During the past eight years, the city has settled on and shaken off three different locations, acquiring lawsuits along the way.
The following timeline shows the progression from the genesis of center to today, with the city offering about $900,000 for all of the buildings in the Gainesville Correctional Institution. The city waits for the state to accept the offer on Nov. 19 so it can begin renovations and offer services.
In the meantime, the number of homeless men and women in Alachua County has steadily risen: From 2012 to 2013, the number of homeless men and women increased by 313, according to the latest Alachua County Homeless Census. In 2011, Gainesville was ranked No. 2 in the increase of homeless population among smaller cities, according to a 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Despite the lengthy struggle to find a location for the shelter, City Commissioner Todd Chase, who suggested the current site for the center, said the issue of the center has had the unanimous support of the city and county commission and local state legislators.
“Of any issue I’ve seen in my two and a half years in office,” he said, “this is the only issue that I can tell you I have seen 100-percent unanimous support on from all our elected officials.”
Rochelle Alleyne, Rebecca Kopelman, and Abbey Taub contributed reporting.